Juan Carlos I – 1975-20141
Juan Carlos I, King of Spain (1975-2014). Fundamental figure, along with President Adolfo Suárez, of the so-called Spanish transition, King Juan Carlos I renounced the powers he had received from the dictator Francisco Franco to promote the process that led peacefully from dictatorship to democracy and culminated with the approval of the Constitution of 1978, by which Spain became a modern democratic state and the king went on to perform merely representative functions. The transition made Juan Carlos I the most valued public figure in the country: political parties and Republican ideology characters complied with the constitutional monarchy thanks to the action of the owner of the Crown, to the point of coining the recurring phrase “I am not monarchical, but juancarlista”.
Son of Don Juan de Borbón and Battenberg and grandson, therefore, of King Alfonso XIII, Juan Carlos was born in Rome, the city in which his grandfather Alfonso XIII had been exiled, deposed when the Second Spanish Republic was established (April 1931). In 1938, the year in which Juan Carlos was born, the Spanish Civil War was at its peak, with notorious military advantage in favor of the rebel side, led by General Francisco Franco, and Spanish monarchists relied on the dynastic restoration once it concluded. the conflict. But at the end of the war (April 1939), Franco remained in power, initiating a dictatorial regime that would last until his death (November 1975) and that kept the royal family apart from the throne and the country.
In 1941 Alfonso XIII died. The resignation of his sons Alfonso and Jaime to the dynastic rights of the House of Bourbon had made his youngest son, Don Juan de Borbón and Battenberg, the heir to the throne. In 1948, a first interview took place between General Francisco Franco and Don Juan de Borbón. The son of Alfonso XIII and father of Juan Carlos tried to preserve the dynastic rights of his family, while Franco sought to legitimize the continuity of his regime, binding it with the legality prior to the Republic. After several interviews held in later years (1954, 1960), it was agreed that Prince Juan Carlos would receive academic and military training in Spain, under the tutelage of the regime, and that he would succeed Franco at the Head of State.
After living with his family in Italy, Switzerland, and Portugal, Juan Carlos went to Spain, where he received extensive training, which included as a fundamental component the passage through the military academies. In 1962 he married in Athens with the Sofia princess of Greece, belonging to the royal house of Greece, with which he would have three children: the infantas Elena and Cristina and then Prince of Asturias, Felipe.
The negotiations of Francisco Franco with Don Juan de Borbón, and the important personal resignation that the father made by leaving the education of his son in the hands of the dictator, gave the desired result by designating Franco to Juan Carlos as successor in the Head of State ( 1969). From that moment, Juan Carlos began to participate in the tasks of government.
From 1971 the prince’s functions were completed with the expectation that he would temporarily replace Franco in situations of absence or illness. This situation occurred on two occasions (July 1974 and November 1975), in which Juan Carlos took over temporarily the Head of State due to Franco’s illness. During his second internship, he traveled to the Spanish colony of Western Sahara, threatened by the Green March organized by the King of Morocco, Hassan II; his intervention was decisive to avoid war with the Alawite kingdom, which was later transferred sovereignty over the Saharawi territory.
The death of Francisco Franco in 1975 led, according to legal provisions, the coronation of Juan Carlos as king, thus reestablishing in Spain the monarchy of the House of Bourbon. The new king surprised the world by then promoting a peaceful transition from dictatorship to democracy from the current legality. As soon as he could, he got rid of the last president of the government appointed by Franco ( Carlos Arias Navarro ) and appointed in his place a more open and liberal young man: Adolfo Suárez (1976).
With the continued support of the king, Adolfo Suárez carried out the political reform (1977) and assembled democratic constituent Courts, from which the Constitution was agreed upon by the Spanish people in a referendum in 1978. In this process, Juan Carlos I renounced most of the powers he had inherited from the dictatorship, becoming a parliamentary monarchy with merely symbolic and representative powers, similar to those possessed by the other kings of Western Europe. With this, he acquired a great international prestige and a widespread popularity among the Spaniards, pillars that ensured the continuity of the monarchy he embodied.
His last decisive public intervention to consolidate the democratic regime took place in 1981, when an attempted coup led by Tejero and Miláns del Bosch forced him to go public in defense of the law, disavowing the coup plotters and using his ascendancy over the military to call them to discipline; With this, he helped to thwart the coup and ended up earning general respect inside and outside of Spain.
Juan Carlos, I faithfully carried out the tasks attributed to him by the Constitution, intervening through consultations with the parliamentary leaders in the appointment of the candidate for president of the government after each electoral consultation. His function of representation of the State would take him to travel incessantly abroad, in support of the foreign policy decided by his governments; It is worth highlighting in this aspect his symbolic leadership over the Ibero-American Community of nations, as well as the support for Spanish integration in Western organizations (NATO and the European Union), which took place during his reign.
He also traveled frequently to visit the different autonomous communities that make up the Spanish State: in that aspect, the relatively open attitude he showed towards cultural and linguistic plurality, political and administrative decentralization and the idiosyncrasy of the different regions facilitated the maintenance of the fragile balance between unity and diversity that the Constitution of 1978 designed. Without sporadic criticism, it can be affirmed that Juan Carlos I kept intact his prestige and that of the institution during most of his reign.
Juan Carlos had said, repeated and reiterated on every occasion he was presented that he did not intend to abdicate, that a king should be king until death. There were moments, due to some of the scandals that I have referred to, in which he received strong pressures from monarchical areas to leave the crown on the head of his son Felipe, of whom Don Juan Carlos was proud, but with whom I did not have an extremely easy communication. Don Juan Carlos complained, a little with a small mouth, that it should be said that in Spain there were no monarchists, but rather juancarlistas. He was fully aware of his duties to the dynasty he embodied.
To the monarchy, to consolidate itself in a nation without monarchists, it lacked the proof of the death of Don Juan Carlos, since it did not contemplate the abdication, a verb for the exclusive use of the monarchs. Finally, when the polls found that his conduct had led the monarchy to a standstill, to an evaluation even lower than that of the journalists, he had to yield to the evidence that if he wanted to save the Constitution, he should sacrifice his person. It was, together with his indispensable contribution to the democratic transition, the great service offered to the nation.